1. Sid Vicious
Will any argue that this non talented, drug addicted, pathetic human being doesn’t deserve to be on this list? Let break it down: he couldn’t play bass, he couldn’t sing, he murdered his girlfriend, and he was so fucked up most the time, he would wear swastika t-shirts as some sort of punk rock statement. For some reason, legions of fans of the Sex Pistols have glorified and deified this man into some Godfather of the Punk Movement while greats like Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer (who had more talent in his left ass cheek than Sid had in his entire body), and Joey Ramone, though get their dues, are no where near the legend that Sid is. The most he ever contributed to music was an attitude.
2. Jim Morrison
As a friend recently told me, “Jim Morrison is a drunk stripper who was somehow romanticized into the greatest rock poet of a generation”. No one is questioning his abilities as a front man (behind Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth, it doesn’t get much better than Morrison). But to have movies made about his life, and book after book written about his lyrical genius is absurd to me. I love the Doors and their music. But lets face it, he wasn’t even close to being the best lyricist of his generation (can anyone say “Dylan”?), and his voice was a drunken howl at best. Though The Doors influence can still be heard throughout modern music, and Morrison truly was one of the first rock-n-roll clichés, I cant help but think that if not for Rolling Stone magazine, classic rock radio, and Oliver Stone, Jim Morrison would be about as popular as John Densmore (don’t know who he is? Exactly)
3. Eric Clapton
Now before you get all up in arms about Slow Hand let me first say that Clapton is one of the greatest BLUES guitar players ever. The dude can flat out rip it up. But, to hear people say he is God or the “Greatest Guitar Player Ever” makes me want to make them sit down and listen to “Tears in Heaven” then “Voodoo Chile”. Now I realize that Clapton got bored of being the guitar god and ventured off into more songwriting excursions, but lets face it, the dude plays blues scales and that’s about it. As for songwriting, Jimmy Page and Townsend blow him away. Technical skill: Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Stevie Ray and Jeff Beck are much better. Creativity: Hendrix, Richards, Zappa, The Edge were far more groundbreaking with their styles. Clapton is a great blues guitar player. But he does not deserve to even me mentioned as one of the top 5 guitar players of all time. If for nothing else, because he simply wrote and recorded way too many wack pop songs.
4. The Beatles
Before you have a complete shit fit and start screaming at the screen about how insanely wrong I am with this one, let me try and justify it with a few points. The Beatles changed the face of modern music-there is no doubting that. The Beatles wrote some of the greatest songs ever, songs that will be good 50,100, 500 years from now. The Beatles changed the way music is recorded by being the first band to use the studio as an instrument. That all being said, I’m sick of the utter and total blind hype that critics, writers, musicians, and just about everyone else gives them. They were a horrible live band (when they actually did play, which was never or on top of roofs), their ratio of good to bad songs isn’t too high percentage wise, they lacked the soul, style, and grit of The Rolling Stones, the were very formulated when writing their songs, they didn’t utilize George Harrison enough throughout their careers, they had a robotic drummer, and their first few albums were nothing but bubble gum pop songs. I think there is a mass conspiracy to brainwash every up and coming musician that The Beatles are the be-all-end-all of modern music. Imagine this: The Beatles played Woodstock. What performance would have been more noted on musical terms (not the hype, just based on the music): Santana, the Who, Sly and Family Stone, shit, even CSNY or The Beatles? You can’t tell me that “Get By With Help From My Friends” would have beat out Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice”.
5. The Grateful Dead
I’ve said it all along, the Dead are the greatest cover band ever. Look at any given set list of theirs and tell me how many songs on that list are covers versus originals? At best, the Dead were a rock/country/jazz/ fusion band that could rock as hard as they could play. At worst, well, we all know what they were at their worst: doodling noise. Jerry is an unbelievable guitar player (which is why his solo stuff is far better than anything the Dead ever put out) and Phil Lesh plays bass like a cannonball being fired into your stomach, but with even more depth. The Dead were successful cause they created an anti-establishment counterculture that kids could escape to for a few weeks, take drugs, party, dance, and sell veggie burritos to pay for the fake tickets they were about to scalp. If you’re simply a casual Dead fan (do any of those exist?) then you can probably name no more than 4 Dead songs (“Truckin”, “Uncle John’s Band”, “Casey Jones” or “Touch of Grey”). The fact that to this day this band still sells millions of dollars worth of merchandise, bootlegs are still traded like stocks, and tour without Jerry (that’s like Crazy Horse touring without Neil) shows me that it’s all based upon the hype right now and has nothing to do with actual band. How many actual studio records does this band have? How many are good take American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead? Exactly.
Tell me, if MTV never played the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, would you know whom Nirvana is? Would frat boys be blasting “In Bloom” singing “He’s the one who likes all the pretty songs, but he don’t know what it means” without realizing the song is about them? Kurt Cobain was an amazing musician, and deserves a lot of the credit he gets for changing modern music from glam rock to good rock. But the never-ending hype around this band has got to end. They put out a few amazing albums that will stand the test of time. The constant barrage of Nirvana clone bands still saturates today’s market (can you say Puddle of Mudd?). But for writers (you know who you are Rolling Stone), and VH1 talking heads proclaiming Nirvana as the second coming of The Beatles is absurd. Alice in Chains was harder, Soundgarden was more talented (member for member) and Mudhoney was just simply put, cooler. Kurt owes a lot of his guitar style to Neil Young, J Mascis, Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo. He would probably tell you that too, if he didn’t decide to off himself because of what? The over hyping of his band.
7. Billy Joel
I’ll be honest, I can’ think of one song of his that I actually like. If I want to hear great songs about New York City, then I’ll listen to Lou Reed. If I want to hear great singer songwriter piano work, Ill listen to Elton John (well, I actually wont listen, but you know what I mean). If I want to hear overly pretentious, purposefully poetic yet non-poetic lyrics, then ill listen to Billy Joel. No doubt the guy can handle the keys, and his voice isn’t too shabby either. But talk about someone really riding a career off one song, “Piano Man”. Does anyone under 30 like Billy Joel? Why does classic rock radio (which I’m starting to realize is basically responsible for ALL over hyping on this list) play his music to death? I’m starting to think that it wasn’t Robert Johnson that sold his soul at the crossroads, or even Ralph Machio (which by the way, there is NO WAY Steve Vai looses to the Karate Kid in a “guitar-off”) but it was actually Billy Joel who sold it. This guy deserves nothing, and what he gets is simply being taken away from who really deserves the credit: Elton John.
8. Billy Corgan
Whiney voice, arrogant attitude, ugly bald head, low ratio of good-to-bad songs, and an air of self importance makes Billy Corgan a much deserved member of this list. I had the chance to see the Smashing Pumpkins play once. They were ok, and I even liked some of their songs. But that dude needs to go. Never have I seen a front man insult the audience like him (someone threw a hackey sack on the stage to which Corgan replied “what is this? A Grateful Dead show? As if a Dead head couldn’t also like the Pumpkins?) and never have I seen a musician admit their inabilities. Going on after the Beastie Boys, Corgan asked the crowd “Wow, playing after them we must really sound bad. Do we suck?” What do you think the crowd said? After Kurt Cobain, I think many consider Corgan next in line as the defining musician of a generation. His gloomy, depressing songs, hard-edged metal-yet-not-metal riffs, and thought provoking lyrics are easy to catch on to. But people act like this guys’ shit don’t stink. I have one word for you: ZWAN.
Now before you pseudo hippies get out your devil sticks and throw them in my face, remember this list is about overrated. I’m not at all saying I don’t like any of the artists. As a matter of fact, I like most if not all of them. My concern is the hype that people put on these musicians. Phish, I like to say, are almost TOO good. They make music for musicians (something I hear a lot of people say about Coltrane and Zappa). But let’s face it folks, if Jerry didn’t die Phish would still be the college playing, mid-level band they were before 1995. Their mix of humor and music (something I’m not really a fan of unless you ARE Zappa) and their long, extended “show off jams” even to a musician like myself, tend to be quite self indulgent. OK Trey, we know you can play guitar, now try writing ONE good song. I never blame a band for the hype around them, that’s for Publicists, MTV, Rolling Stone, and KROC. But none of those are hyping Phish, which lends me to believe its all their fans doing it. Like the Dead, can you name me a good Phish studio album? There is more to music than just showing off your playing abilities. There is something called songwriting. And believe it or not, there is a way to mix extreme musical skills, humor, and good songwriting and making it work. Its called Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
10. The Eagles
If you drive one hour in your car any day of the week, anywhere in America, and listen to any rock station, you will no doubt be hearing one, if not four Eagles songs. They have two greatest hits releases that are basically the same songs. They haven’t written a new song in 20 years yet still tour and charge $150/ticket. “Hotel California” needs to be banned from rock radio forever. The Eagles were a mediocre band at best. Their laid back California grooves struck a note with millions of fans yet even Lebowski knew that “the Eagles suck. Put on some Creedence”. Another band that fell prey to a low ratio of good-to-bad songs. For some reason, legions of rock critics have decided that the Eagles were a significant band from the 70’s. I suppose if you compare them to other 70’s acts like Journey, Supertramp, Boston, Kansas, ELO, etc. they were The Stones. But I’m not sure there has ever been another band that is strictly kept alive due to classic rock radio. At least kids today will buy Hendrix, Floyd, Zeppelin, and the Stones. Do you think some 16-year-old kid is running out to buy “Desperado”?